Formula vs. Breast Milk: Which is Good for the Baby?

Dr. Sushmit Suman

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sushmit Suman

Gynaecologist and Obstetrician

5 min read

Key Takeaways

  • There are pros and cons in any discussion of formula vs breast milk
  • The presence of antibodies is one of the important benefits of breast milk
  • Formula milk takes longer time to digest but minimizes the number of feeds

Becoming a parent is definitely one of the most exciting times of your life. But with it come added responsibilities and tough decisions. One of the most important choices you have to make is whether to breastfeed or formula feed your baby. This is solely a personal decision and depends on the health of the mother and her thoughts on formula vs breast milk. To address misconceptions and shed a little light on the differences, here’s all you need to know.

What Is Breastfeeding? 

Feeding your baby breast milk directly from the breasts is known as breastfeeding. You need to take a cue from the baby to decide when and how long to breastfeed. A newborn may require milk every 2 to 3 hours. A six-month-old baby may require to be fed after 4 to 5 hours. Always lookout for signs your baby shows like putting hands inside the mouth, crying, or opening the mouth.

Key medical bodies like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the WHO [1], and UNICEF recommend all young mothers to exclusively breastfeed until 6 months, which can be further continued until 1 or 2 years of age.

benefits of breastfeeding

What Are the Benefits of Breastfeeding? 

There are many benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding. Primary, this improves a child’s development in many ways. Breast milk is rich in nutrients such as carbohydrates, calcium, fats and proteins, all of which are essential for your baby’s growth. The natural antibodies present in breast milk also protect your baby from several health ailments. This is mainly due to Colostrum and the Immunoglobulins in breast milk. [2]

Since breast milk can be easily digested, your baby has fewer gastrointestinal problems like constipation and a bloated stomach. Additionally, breastfed babies are less likely to become obese as the nutrients present in the breast milk help in the regulation of fat storage. In fact, studies indicate that babies that have been exclusively breastfed are likely to exhibit a higher IQ. [3]

Additional read: How to Increase Immunity in Kids?

What Is Formula Feeding? 

While breastfeeding has numerous health benefits, it can seem quite challenging. If you are not able to breastfeed due to health reasons, you may consider feeding formula-based milk to your baby. Formula milk is commercially prepared and is an FDA-regulated product, packed with the right amount of nutrients your baby requires. Baby formulas are available in 3 different forms as powders, ready-to-use formulas and as liquid concentrates.

While powders are the least expensive of the lot, ready-to-use formulas are quite expensive. Usually, there are either milk-based or soy-based and some special baby formulas available in the market are suitable for formula feeding newborn babies as well. On comparing breast milk vs formula milk, there are obvious benefits of choosing breast milk, but formula may be necessary for some mothers.

Breastfeeding vs formula feeding: Pros and cons 

Both breastfeeding and formula feeding have their own advantages and disadvantages. Breastfeeding is beneficial for both mom and baby. But it may take some time to get adjusted to this process for a new mother. You may face problems like engorged breasts, soreness in nipples, and plugged milk ducts. All these concerns may be worrisome but with patience and perseverance, it is easy to overcome them.

On the other hand, the benefits of formula feeding are that it is convenient and a viable alternative. You do not need to be available 24x7 to feed your baby. Any other family member can feed your baby when you are unable to. Additionally, formula milk takes a longer time to digest. Hence, the number of feeding times also reduces.

There are negative effects of formula feeding as well. One of the major side effects of formula milk is that it does not help the baby build an immune system as strongly as it would on breast milk. Moreover, it can cause gastric problems and constipation as well. [4]

Additional Read: Breast cancer causes

What is bottle feeding? 

When you feed either formula milk or breast milk in a bottle, it is called bottle feeding. Bottle feeding newborn babies can give you more flexibility as you need not be available all the time. It provides a chance for other family members to bond with the baby. When you consider breastfeeding vs bottle feeding advantages, bottle feeding can be quite expensive because of using bottles and rubber nipples.

Is it possible to do breastfeeding and formula feeding at the same time? 

It is ideal to stick with one mode of feeding as alternating between breastfeeding and formula feeding may interfere with breast milk production. With formula milk, the baby is less hungry. So, the feeding intervals get minimized. However, with an adequate milk supply for a few months, you can consider alternating both. [5]

Whether you choose to breastfeed or formula feed your baby, you need to stay healthy and consume a wholesome nutritious diet to take good care of your baby. If you face any problems in breastfeeding your baby, book an appointment with the right specialists on Bajaj Finserv Health. Find a doctor near you with ease and get the right guidance to start your parenting journey with confidence.

Published on 6 Aug 2021Last updated on 29 Apr 2022

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.

Dr. Sushmit Suman

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sushmit Suman

, MBBS 1 , MS - Obstetrics and Gynaecology 3



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